On weaning

Nursing my babies has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Before I had Shepherd, I knew I wanted to breastfeed but had never thought about extended nursing, never saw myself nursing a 3 and 1/2 year old, let alone tandem nursing. This is my story of breastfeeding my babies and the end of nursing. (For about 2 months...until I have another newborn ;)

{the very first time}

 Neither of them were the easiest starts to nursing, but nothing too bad. It took awhile for my milk to come in with Shepherd, and he wouldn't latch on. I'll never forget frantically googling things at 4am with a days old baby who was starving and I couldn't figure out how to feed. Trying to get him to latch, he getting more and more frustrated and ending up pumping into a bottle so he would take it. We figured out a nipple shield and after a few months of that annoying thing, another moment I'll never forget is the moment Shepherd first latched on without it. Joey was sitting with me in the middle of the night and we were looking at each other, afraid to move or breathe and mess it up. 

Nursing Shepherd, he was always a lazy, comfort nurser. Since he was my first and I could give him all of my attention, I loved the long nursing sessions, just letting him take his time and be relaxed.
I like to enjoy my meals too!

When Major was born, Shepherd was about 20 months old, and still nursing. So began our journey of tandem nursing. 

I have logged so much time in this chair! 

When I was pregnant with Major I contemplated making Shepherd wean, but it never felt right. He wasn't ready and that made me not ready. My goal was always to let him self wean, and I refused to end something I loved so much on a bad note. I wondered if tandem nursing would be too much or too hard and how it would all work. But like most things, for me, if I let them just naturally take their course, it all works out.

Tandem nursing was not without its challenges, mainly in the beginning.  When I was pregnant with Major, Shepherd was nursing maybe once or twice a day, and not for long. I didn't foresee that when Major was born, Shep would start wanting to nurse all the time. I was dehydrated from nursing so much.  After a month or two he calmed down and it all worked out fine. I loved tandem nursing. One of the best things about nursing an older child is that it is an instant mood stabilizer. If Shep was hurt, upset, tired...nursing for even a minute calmed him down. It also always put him to sleep really easily!

When Major was born, he got the hang of nursing quickly. I did see a lactation consultant when Major was about a week old because it was hurting when he latched, and I knew it didn't have to, so I wanted to get it fixed before it got worse. The LC helped me figure out some ways to correct his latch and it was smooth sailing after that. Major was the perfect nursling, especially being a second child. I hope our next baby is like him! Major was always efficient. I was used to Shepherd taking forever to nurse and wanting to comfort nurse all day. Major would nurse 10 minutes, get full and be done. He has never, ever been a comfort nurser. This was great when we were out of the house and I didn't really have time to sit around. 

Speaking of nursing in public. I guess just because I have pretty much always stayed home, I could easily plan when I knew they'd be hungry around outings. But I have nursed in public so many places and am a big supporter of feeding your baby when they need it, no matter where you are. 
They've both nursed at the beach, in the car, in waiting rooms, at the park...

My goal was for both of them to self wean, whenever that may be. When I found out I was pregnant with our third baby, I was still tandem nursing them both with no end in sight. Major was only nursing before nap and bedtime, pretty much the way he's been his whole life. Shepherd on the other hand wanted to comfort nurse all the time. But we were at a point where I wouldn't let him nurse for long, literally I would count to 3 on each side and he'd be done. One thing that helped me tandem nurse was reading about how it's ok to create boundaries and time limits, etc.

After researching triandem nursing and thinking about those first few months after Major was born, I decided when I was about 4-5 months pregnant to just gently suggest the idea of weaning to Shepherd. I didn't want to push it, but just see how it went. We started talking about how he was such a big boy and when the baby gets here he will need to nurse all the time because he can't eat big boy food. Shep usually just listened and still insisted on nursing without acknowledging me much. I started limiting the times he could nurse to first thing in the morning and right before bed. He would still ask throughout the day but I could usually distract him and he would forget about it. If I did tell him no and he had a fit, I would go ahead and let him nurse for a few seconds, because like I said before, I refused to end our nursing relationship on a bad note for either of us. Eventually those times got fewer and fewer, and after I'd say 2-3 months, from the first time I brought up "saying bye bye to nursing," I can now say he is weaned. He nursed for about 3.5 years.  

When he was younger and I felt pressure either from myself or other reasons to wean him, or debated what to do, I would literally bawl my eyes out at the thought of forcing him to wean. I could not be happier with the way it all worked out. I loved nursing that sweet, precious boy and it ended on his terms, when he was ready, which was all I wanted. Breastfeeding is so much more than just nutrition. That is obviously a huge part of it, but there are emotional, social, cognitive benefits too. I was Shepherd's safe place, when something was unfamiliar, I was always the same. 

Now for weaning Major. Again, he is the perfect nursling. Being pregnant it kind of started to hurt because I was extra sensitive.  My milk was drying up and, like I said he was not a comfort nurser. I think he was trying so hard to get something out and one night he bit me so hard I had tears streaming down my face. The next night I was putting him to bed and still scarred from the night before. I decided to try and just rock him to sleep without nursing. To my surprise he was totally fine with that and didn't even act like he noticed, going right to sleep. Ever since then I've never offered to nurse him and he has never asked. I am so happy, again, that it ended on his terms, when I could be confident he was ready, as opposed to me forcing it and upsetting him. And I love rocking him to sleep, although it does take longer than nursing him did! Major weaned at about 23 months. 

I always thought weaning would make me so sad. I knew I would blog about it and dreaded writing this. I worried I would have the depression that a lot of times happens with weaning.  I am so thankful it wasn't that way and proud I met my goal of letting them self wean. 


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